While many of us were trying to make sense of Google’s recently announced restructuring, Google once again shook up the world of search. As we noted on our blog, Google scaled back the amount of real estate it provides for featured search results by rolling out its three-listing Snack Pack, which gives preference to the top three results instead of the top seven. The advent of the Snack Pack underscores the need for enterprises to practice sound search engine optimization (SEO) at the local level.
To recap: Google’s Snack Pack format highlights only the three top listings in search results, as opposed to the seven-listing format previously used. The three-pack takes a mobile-first design approach, whittling results to basic address, weblinks, and driving directions, as this example illustrates by revealing search results for “gyms downtown Chicago”:
There is no other way around it: the total amount of local and local organic listings on the first page of Google’s search results just dropped by almost a quarter, and some businesses are dropping out as a result. If you are concerned about losing search traffic in a post-Snack Pack world, here’s what you should do:
- Review your local organic search strategy. Why? Because if you were in the 4-7 spots of of the local pack, there is a likely chance that Google will send less traffic your way moving forward. So make sure you are following all best practices for optimizing your local business pages for organic search and continue working to build additional local links.
- On the other hand, don’t neglect to continue optimizing your Google My Business listings and creating additional citations, both structured and unstructured. The conflation of local and local organic signals continues; so ignoring one in favor of another is not in your best interest.
Incidentally, I suspect many businesses will notice a decrease in site traffic and onsite conversions attributable to Google thanks to the Snack Pack. The decrease is beyond the control of your own efforts to optimize for Google and SEO. Rather, Snack Pack listings now show fewer trackable links to websites. In the example I cited for a search for “gyms downtown Chicago,” Google reveals a website and links for the three businesses listed: East Bank Club, Lakeview Athletic Club, and Quads Gym. When you click on the website links, you are indeed taken to the websites for each business. But when you click on the other links associated with each name, you are taken to Google’s Local Finder:
Visiting this Local Finder is not a trackable action from the standpoint of your Web analytics.
So don’t panic if you see a dropoff in measurable Web traffic. The dropoff doesn’t necessarily mean that your local performance level is decreasing, but rather the trackable performance level from Web analytics is decreasing. Instead, look to other metrics like Google My Business reporting, call volume, and in-store visits.
We’ll continue to monitor the fallout from the Google Snack Pack and report our findings. Meantime, contact SIM Partners if you want to discuss implications for your business in more detail.
Image Credit: Startup Nation
Mobile is collapsing the customer journey, and businesses are responding with the launch of more on-demand services, a phenomenon I call the “Uber Effect.” As Uber has demonstrated, an enterprise can satisfy customers by empowering them to get what they want with one tap of their mobile devices. In my new Street Fight byline, I discuss how local businesses need to respond to the Uber effect in order to keep their storefronts competitive. I invite you to read the article and let me know your insights about ways businesses can drive more in-store foot traffic amid the rise of the on-demand economy. Connect with me. I’d love to discuss further.
For quite some time, search marketing practitioners have viewed local directories such as Yelp and YellowPages.com to be an essential element of a local search strategy. Typically, marketers wishing to be visible locally have cast their nets far and wide, ensuring that their location data is listed on as many local directories as possible. But data from a recently released study suggests that marketers might want to rethink their approach to relying on local directories.
Image Credit: Search Engine Land
BrightLocal studied traffic data for 30 prominent U.S. directories, including MapQuest and Yelp. According to BrightLocal Founder and CEO Myles Anderson, the leading online directories (with the exception of Yelp) have experienced a 35-percent decline in traffic throughout the past 28 months. But he also provides some encouraging data: since April 2015, traffic to local directories shows a gradual increase, especially for the “Big 12″ principal directors such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) and Yelp.
It is clear that the launch of the Google Doorway algorithm (which penalizes sites with threadbare content) might be contributing to the decline in traffic for local directories. Google has always preferred sending searchers to content-rich local brand pages instead of to directories, where a brand’s content is usually less plentiful and, unfortunately, not always accurate. When Google acts, the digital world reacts.
Unfortunately for local directories, Anderson foresees a tough road ahead. “It’s hard to predict anything except for more decline; certainly, that appears to be the outlook for smaller directories,” he writes. “This decline in fortunes will likely lead to closures or mergers of some sites as their business models no longer deliver enough revenue to make them worthwhile ventures for their owners.”
So what should enterprises that rely in local directories do? I have two words of advice:
- Don’t let the bad news scare you into abandoning local directories. Local listings still provide value in building citations for your brand even if web traffic to directories is declining. As citations continue to be an important part of Google’s local search algorithm, listings on these sites can directly improve your local and local organic rankings.
- Be selective in your investment into local directories. Instead of casting your net far and wide and worrying about getting every citation “perfect,” keep your primary attention on local directories that are likely to appear in Google’s search results and rely on data aggregators like Neustar Localeze and Infogroup to syndicate business data to the sites Google is not favoring these days
Finally, watch the local directory space closely for signs of a shake-out. The directories you favor with your marketing budget might not exist in 2016.
Mobile wallets have many functions, from storing digital information to offering special deals and enriching loyalty programs. It may seem like they haven’t fully taken off yet, but research shows that they will.
As my new Marketing Land byline asserts, mobile wallets also promise to make local marketing more effective. I encourage you to check out the article, “Three Ways to Win with Mobile Wallets,” and let me know what you think of it.
Has your company used any mobile wallet offers? Connect with me, as I would love to discuss this further and learn what you think about the future of mobile wallets.
Photo credit: Engadget
Google just accelerated the customer journey from mobile devices to offline locations. At Google’s 2015 I/O event, the company announced “Now on tap,” a virtual assistance of sorts that makes it easier for consumers to find information on their mobile phones without needing to toggle from one application or Web screen to another. Now on tap promises to help Android users find “what you need in the moment, anywhere on your phone.” The challenge for enterprises with multiple locations: when searchers need something in the moment, will you be present? Will you own the next moment by turning searches into transactions?
As noted on Google’s blog, with “Now on tap,” Google acknowledges that in our hyper-connected world, we want to jump effortlessly from search to discovery to purchase from our mobile devices. When a friend texts you with a quick recommendation for your favorite bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, you ought to be able to reply seamlessly with an answer and a link to your favorite bar instead of needing to exit what you are doing. As Aparna Chennapragada, director of product management, notes:
With “Now on tap,” you can simply tap and hold the home button for assistance without having to leave what you’re doing—whether you’re in an app or on a website. For example, if a friend emails you about seeing the new movie Tomorrowland, you can invoke Google Now without leaving your app, to quickly see the ratings, watch a trailer, or even buy tickets—then get right back to what you were doing.
And here’s where things get really interesting from a local search standpoint: “If you’re chatting with a friend about where to get dinner, Google can bring you quick info about the place your friend recommends,” according Chennapragada. “You’ll also see other apps on your phone, like OpenTable or Yelp, so you can easily make a reservation, read reviews or check out the menu.”
It’s easy to see the implications for local search:
- Enterprises that fail to be present with compelling content and accurate name, address, and phone information won’t even be considered.
- Businesses that are present with the right content for those “moments on tap” will be more competitive.
- Enterprises that go beyond “being present” and offer a compelling reason to visit their locations — say, a 10-percent off offer for your mobile wallet — will win.
We have urged brands to own “the next moment” of search, or the action that occurs after a consumer finds your business. Owning the next moment means providing contextually relevant content and experiences that compel consumers to take action. Google Now on tap will make the next moment an instant moment. Note: Now on tap will be available with the forthcoming Android M release.
Google has been keeping webmasters busy lately. In February, Google announced an update designed to reward mobile-friendly sites in search results. In March, Google released the doorway page penalty algorithm, which, as the name implies, cracks down on pages that have been created solely to attract search traffic without providing any value to the searcher. The doorway algorithm update has created some concern among brands that operate multiple pages — for example, national retailers with multiple product pages and locations. My counsel: focus not on Google but on providing quality content, and your brand will be just fine.
I see the doorway update as an extension of the Panda algorithm, which targets thin content created for search engines and not for people. Unfortunately, Google’s definition of a doorway page is murky, which understandably creates some angst among webmasters and search engine strategists. As Home Depot search engine optimization manager Erin Everhart wrote recently in Search Engine Watch, “Even the five questions Google suggested to consider when determining if your page could be considered a doorway page didn’t help give much light to worrying webmasters. How does Google define ‘usable’ and ‘relevant’? If the page actually is an island and doesn’t have any internal links pointing to it, would it not rank in the first place?”
No wonder I have received calls from businesses asking whether their local content pages are “safe.” My advice always comes down to asking yourself one question: Why did you create a particular page of content? To serve a user or to serve a search engine? If you created a location page to serve a function such as providing information about your services, as well as name/address/location detail, then you need not worry that you are operating a doorway page. If you created the page to attract the attention of a search engine, then the page might be tagged as a doorway page and will suffer a penalty.
Yes, the lines can get blurry between legitimate content and doorway pages. A retailer that provides multiple pages for a single shoe line might be veering into doorway territory if the pages consist of thin content, such as the same shoe in different colors. Such a retailer would be wise to combine the product lines on one page for ease of reference or simply make it possible for the user to mix and match shoe colors and prices with the tap of a keyboard.
Google has been targeting thin content for some time. So the doorway algorithm should not come as a surprise. If you’ve been minding the usefulness of your content and focusing on the needs of your customers all along, Google will reward you. More importantly, your customers should be doing so already.
It seems like everywhere I look — Twitter, Google, Facebook — I keep seeing the word “Mobilegeddon”.
For all of those worried about Google’s upcoming algorithm update coming to a SERP near you on April 21st — don’t panic. Whether you have noticed it or not, Google has been moving in this direction for quite a while.
For some perspective on “Mobilegeddon,” and what it means to your brand, check out my byline in Search Engine Land.
Is your website mobile friendly? If so, what benefits have you been seeing as a result?
Location and context just became more important to brands. On March 23, Twitter disclosed a relationship with Foursquare to make it possible for people to add specific locations to their Tweets. In other words, you can give your tweets additional context by sharing your location (e.g., “Starbucks, 123 Mission Street. San Francisco”) along with your activity. The relationship underscores how important it is for brands to create personal, contextual relationships with customers at the local level — such as by offering location-specific offers targeted to Twitter users based on their location and activity.
Twitter users are already able to add cities or neighborhoods to their tweets. But as explained on the Twitter website, soon users will be able to add specific locations– such as restaurants, businesses, and retail stores. As Twitter notes, “You can choose to add a location to your Tweets using Twitter for Android, Twitter for iOS, twitter.com or other mobile applications.” The mobile applicability is crucial: mobile searches are expected to surpass desktop searches in 2015, per eMarketer.
The Twitter/Foursquare relationship creates an opportunity for businesses (such as large enterprises with multiple locations) to create more location-relevant information, such as offers and recommendations. For instance, if you Tweet about the lunch you are having in the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, the Banana Republic Twitter account that you follow just might want to let you know about a sale going on at the nearby Banana Republic in the Financial Center. But retailers are not the only brands that can benefit. For instance, a medical practice might share with you information about the doctors at its location depending on where you are and what you are doing.
The relationship is also a huge win for Foursquare because Foursquare extends its reach as a source of business data for third-party applications. Foursquare already supplies data to Uber and Pinterest to make those apps more locally relevant. Partnering with Twitter makes Foursquare a more influential player in local search.
For brands to succeed, they should consider carefully the importance of context. Brands that tweet offers willy-nilly based on someone’s location may alienate customers and prospects. Brands that take into account a person’s context — such as the time of day a tweet is shared, the actual content and tone of the tweet — will win by being relevant.
Photo Credit: TechCrunch
Any brand that operates multiple locations faces the compelling challenge of creating content that is more relevant and findable to local audiences. For instance, if you are a retailer with locations in Sao Paulo and New York, a winter-season promotion will occur at radically different times of the year in both locations. As I discuss in my new column for Search Engine Land, your local workforce can be incredibly valuable as you formulate location-aware content. Your local employees understands the nuances of communicating to their local markets better than anyone. My new column shares how brands can more effectively tap into the value of their local brand ambassadors. Check it out and let me know what you think.
When Google unleashed its Pigeon update months ago, my colleagues at SIM Partners and I agreed that it would take some time before we could assess Pigeon’s impact on brands. Since then, using the Velocity platform, we have researched its effect on clients and have learned that Pigeon has a number of implications for brands. Studying 5,000 location pages across several industries, we wanted to know how Pigeon affects crucial factors such as website traffic and ranking performance among businesses that depend on local listings. I discuss the results of our study in my new byline for Search Engine Land and encourage you to read our findings and let us know how Pigeon is affecting your brand. Read the article here!